Last month, actress Angelina Jolie captured headlines when she announced she voluntarily had a
double mastectomy after testing positive for the
BRCA1 gene. The gene greatly increased her risk for breast cancer.
But did you know that breast cancer is not exclusive to women? That's right, men get it as well - though not in as great of numbers. The National Cancer Institute estimates that there will be 2,240 new cases of male breast cancer in the United States in 2013 and that 410 men will die from the disease this year.
In April, Staten Island University Hospital President and CEO, Anthony C. Ferreri publicly announced that he is currently fighting IIA breast cancer (which has a 90% survival rate). He urges men to be aware of the symptoms.
"Don't ignore the signs! Let's not put up a barrier because you're a man and you shouldn't pay any attention to it, let's start paying attention to this- men get breast cancer," said Ferreri.
And he's absolutely right. Men tend to be less vigilant about their health needs than women. Men need to be less stoic and more honest and understand that primary intervention is important to curtailing diseases.
There are some pretty macho guys that have been honest about their fight. KISS drummer Peter Criss went public about his battle with male breast cancer, and I commend him and Mr. Ferreri for all they're doing.
Signs of male breast cancer include:
- Abnormal lumps or swelling in the breast, nipple or chest muscle.
- Skin dimpling or puckering.
- Nipple retraction (turning inward)
- Redness or scaling of the nipple or breast skin.
- Nipple discharge.
Here are two other examples of diseases and disorders that are misconstrued as exclusively "women's issues."
Anorexia and Eating Disorders: It's estimated that there are one million men in the U.S. that suffer from this disorder. Because most men don't get treated for eating disorders, the number may be much higher.
Osteoporosis: Studies show up to one in four men over age 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis. Approximately two million American men already have osteoporosis, and 12 million more are at risk.
Skin Cancer: This form of cancer is the most common in the U.S. More than 3.5 million skin cancers in over two million people are diagnosed annually. With summer upon us, you need to wear sun block –even to work. I recommend sun block and lip-balm rated at 15-30 spf (UVA/UVB) to protect your skin.
So what can your organization do?
June is Men's Health Month – celebrate it! The purpose of this month's observance is to heighten the awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys. Let's make this commitment!
Make men and women's health initiatives an organizational goal for your company and let it become part of your business culture. Like I always say: The best medicine is an ounce of prevention!
Theodore Strange, MD, associate chairman of the Department Medicine and vice president of Medical Operations, SIUH South.